Review Roundup: Connecticut Repertory Theatre's GYPSY Starring Leslie Uggams
The cast includes Michael James Leslie, Scott Ripley as Herbie, Alanna Saunders as June, Amandina Altomare as Louise, Luke Hamilton as Tulsa, and features Ariana Shore as Tessie Tura, Dale AJ Rose as Mr. Goldstone/Cigar and Steve Hayes as Uncle Jocko/Kringelien. Additional cast members include Brandon Beaver, Johnny Brantly III, Thomas Brazzle, Madison Coppola, Kristin Devine, Conor Donnally, Cassandra Dupler, Julia Estrada, Mackenzie Leigh Freidmann, Khetanya Henderson, James Jelkin, Sean Jones, Rebecca Mack,Coles Prince, Maria Sheehan, Kyle Schoeplein, Courtney Schoeplein, Annie Tolis, Gianna Yanelli and Madison Young. The production is directed by CRT's Artistic Director Vincent J. Cardinal, with scenic design by Tim Brown, costume design by Lisa Loen, lighting design by Greg Purnell, sound design by Michael Skinner and stage manager Alyssa K. Howard.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Frank Rizzo of The Courant: Though well beyond the right age for the role (the stage is far more forgiving than film) and vocally challenged at moments, Uggams never-the-less brings her dramatic chops to key scenes, as well as charm, presence, warmth and wide-eyed madness to the role. Like vaudeville itself which the show celebrates with a big heart and a hard eye, some acts are OK, some are duds but then there's that flash of brilliance that makes you a believer.
Fred Sokol of Talkin Broadway: This production of the musical fable is tough to type. On the one hand, Altomare as Louise, Ripley as Herbie and others are top level talents. Alanna Saunders is impressive as adolescent June. Most in the cast more than hold their own. Annie Tolis catches one's eye early as Baby June and it will be fun to observe her development as a musical performer; she shows great promise. This is a large group and director Cardinal, music director N David Williams, and choreographer Cassie Abate present a vivacious and snappy show. Lisa Loen's bright costuming greatly enhances all. The second act, more talky than the first, bogs down a bit. The mix of actors who have differing levels of training and experience is not always even. On the whole, however, the cumulative result is quite pleasing.
Geary Danihy of CT Theater News and Reviews: There are quite a few stand-out moments in the show, chief among them June and Louise's duet - "If Momma Was Married" - and Louise's education about the world of the stripper - "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" - performed by Tessa Tura (MacKenzie Leigh Friedman), Electra (Cassandra Dupler) and Mazeppa (Ariana Shore), with Shore setting the mood with a hilarious send-up of the quintessential, world-weary, gauche stripper.
Don Aucoin of the Boston Globe: Much of Uggams's performance takes place in her eyes. They flash one moment, when Rose comes up with a new idea for the family's kitschy act, then turn ice-cold at the hint of a challenge to her authority or what Rose perceives as a betrayal. The actress communicates Rose's genuine love for her daughters but also her willingness to use them as tools of her own ambition. There's an unstoppable drive to Uggams's Rose that goes hand-in-hand with a tendency toward heedless self-destruction.... In Act 2, Altomare does an impressive job transitioning from plain tomboy to sultry knockout when Louise metamorphoses into Gypsy Rose Lee, ecdysiast extraordinare. Michael James Leslie is a forceful Pop, Rose's sternly skeptical father. Luke Hamilton, as Tulsa, who wants to break out of the ensemble and start an act of his own, sings and dances up a storm in the showstopping "All I Need is the Girl.' Alas, the proficiency of the production's singers and dancers was not matched on opening night by the band, which often sounded ragged.